Derry City's Shane McEleney admits boss Ruaidhrí Higgins gave him confidence
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The experienced centre-back says he has no regrets about deciding to take a big step back into senior football and return to his home town club.
"I haven't regretted one bit my decision to re-join Derry. When I first came in I had a lot of faith and backing from the manager which helped me personally,” he insisted.
"If I'm correct, he said in his first interview; 'First off all, I'm not signing Shane McEleney because he's Patrick's brother' and that gave me a lot of confidence to do what I had to do in terms of getting myself match fit and available for selection.
"It took me a few games before I broke into the team last year. I didn't play until the Drogheda game at home which was my first game and about four or five matches in.
"Hopefully we can replicate what was done last year, both on and off the pitch.
"From the outside looking in you’d think from my time 10 years ago, you come in to training and then go home but now it's different, especially with Kevin (McCreadie) and the sport science behind things. The amount of hard work that the staff and the players put in, I think it showed in terms last year and we’ll look to push on this coming season.
"We'll be taking it game by game at the start of the season. We've all got minutes in our legs over recent weeks in the matches against Carrick, 'Stute and Rovers. For the majority of us it was just about getting through pre-season injury free and then hopefully being up for selection for that first game at St Pat's."
The 32-year-old says it isn’t just City and Shamrock Rovers who have strengthened their respective squads and he believes the Premier Division in general is going to be a lot tougher this season.
"Every team in the league is getting stronger, it's not an easy league,” he added. “Even when you go to your UCD’s, Drogheda’s or Finn Park when Harps were in the Premier Division, they are always tough games, so we respect everybody in the league but we don't fear anybody.
"We definitely have two big games to get our season up and running and the President's Cup game at home was a perfect set up for us going to St Pat's. Having turned 32 recently these are the games that I'm really looking forward to.
"You have to give credit where credit's due, Rovers have won three in a row so hats off to them. We gave them a good go last year and that's where we strive to be. Hopefully we can just take it game by game.
"We aren't looking to set huge goals because a lot of things can happen in football, be it injuries, suspensions or whatever. We'll just take it game by game."
The former Larne and Finn Harps man knows expectation levels are high but he’s happy with that.
"I think the expectation levels have gone up due to the way we played and conducted ourselves last year and to top it off by winning the FAI Cup,” added McEleney.
"There's more depth to our squad this year, especially at this stage of the season which is good because it will keep everybody on their toes and create lots of competition for places. That's good and healthy in any squad.
"Expectations are high but, to be honest, as a squad we set high expectations every day when we come into training. Standards have to be high and we have to conduct ourselves in the proper way but we did that for the majority of last year.
"We finished second in the league and any game we contested against (Shamrock) Rovers was a proper game of football, I always felt we were always in those games.
"We want that taste of success again this year. Winning the cup was great but if you weren't wanting that feeling again, then you shouldn't be playing.”